Inside the Bell Jar
Hunter Bell may have been mostly out of the limelight since the Broadway closing of his musical [title of show] in 2008, but he’s hardly been idle. He has collaborated once more with Susan Blackwell, Heidi Blickenstaff, Jeff Bowen, Larry Pressgrove, and Michael Berresse for Now.Here.This, which begins a three-week run at the Vineyard Theatre on June 4. In addition, he has been working again on the book for SILENCE! The Musical — the 2005 FringeNYC Festival hit based on The Silence of the Lambs — which will begin a commercial Off-Broadway run on June 24 at Theater 80. TheaterMania recently caught up with Bell to discuss both of his exciting projects.
THEATERMANIA: What is the concept behind Now.Here.This?
HUNTER BELL: We’re playing with this idea about living in the moment, not holding onto something from your past that might define you or a fear of what might or might not happen. We’re also playing with a lot of themes of pushing through fear, and one way to push through fear is to hopefully live a fuller life, be braver, go on more adventures. But don’t worry! It has lots of songs and jokes in there too!
TM: Is there more pressure on you now that [title of show] was such a big hit?
HB: On what we call the “second album,” we have the gift of having a super-generous and dedicated group of fans who are interested in what we developed. That’s exciting to me a little, and that gives us the gift to risk a little more. But in being true to our aesthetic, we like singing and jumping around together. We like saying everything in a really entertaining way. We’re kind of like Spalding Gray meets The Muppet Show — but there are no puppets. We don’t want it to be a seminar; we want it to be a kick ass theatriconcert
TM: What made you consider making a musical based on The Silence of the Lambs?
HB: It seems like such a great idea, right? I mean, I love that movie and the book, and I thought, “This is ridiculous. This is funny, and this is so wrong!” So I had to throw my hat in the ring!
TM: Are you a horror film junkie?
HB: I used to go through a phase where I would watch all of those 1980s horror movies. They secretly scared me. I have a love/hate relationship with horror movies. I think I scare more easily now as an adult. I don’t know what that means about me.
TM: Did you expect the positive reaction the show received at the Fringe?
HB: Were so thrilled with their reaction. When you have people like Jenn Harris, Jeff Hiller, Stephen Bienskie and Deidre Goodwin, these are the people that elevate your work and take it to a whole other level. I look at this cast and I would build a show around any one of these people.
TM: Any ideas for your next parody?
HB: Anything I think that is self-important or serious. We joke that now we’re going to take our band of players and we’re going to do the musical versions of Schindler’s List and Sophie’s Choice. I’m drawn to those because they should never be done! We would just call it Schindler! with an exclamation point. Or The List. This is how ideas are born!